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Internet profile sites, a type of social networking, have become a more dangerous source of sex-related crime for children than dating Web sites, the National Police Agency said Thursday.

In 2008, 792 children under 18 became victims of sex-related crimes such as pornography and prostitution as a result of using profile sites. The figure surpassed the 724 children who became sex-crime victims after accessing Net dating sites, the agency said.

For the first time, the NPA looked at profile sites and other social networking sites in terms of the possibility of their use for illegal sex services.

NPA officials judged that criminals have been shifting their focus from dating sites to social networking sites in search of potential sex-crime victims as authorities have significantly restricted the business of dating-site operators.

The NPA said it will ask operators of profile and other social networking Web sites to delete messages suggesting illegal sex services.

Sex-related crime cases involving children under 18 using these sites on the Internet totaled 994, the NPA said. There were 648 obscenity cases involving 545 victims, 299 child prostitution and pornography cases involving 204 victims, 17 rape cases involving 15 victims and two attempted murder cases involving two victims.

The number of people who became crime victims after using dating sites, including those aged 18 or older, came to 852 in 2008, down by 445 from the preceding year.

The figure included 328 high school students, 211 junior high school students and two elementary school students. Of those under 18, 714 people, or 98.6 percent, accessed dating sites via cell phones, the NPA said.

Juvenile crime down

The number of minors who committed crimes in 2008 plunged 11.9 percent to 90,966, the fifth year in a row the figure has fallen.

The National Police Agency said Thursday the tally was below 100,000 for the first time since 1956.

Minors accounted for 26.8 percent of all people who were arrested or had their cases turned over to prosecutors for criminal violations, the NPA said.

By crime type, 52,557 minors committed theft. Some 20,594 committed minor offenses such as stealing bicycles and 8,645 committed violent acts.

The number of minors who used illegal stimulants came to 249, down 56, and marijuana users numbered 227, up 48.

The number of school-violence cases increased by 88 to 1,212, up for the sixth straight year, the NPA said.

Child abuse rises

The number of child abuse victims increased by four last year to reach a record high of 319, the National Police Agency said Thursday.

Forty-five children died from abuse in 2008, up eight from the year before, the agency said.

The number of cases turned over to prosecutors or that involved arrests increased by seven to 307.

According to the NPA, 205 cases were classified as physical abuse, 82 involved sexual abuse and 20 were identified as child neglect.

By age, victims under 12 months old accounted for 47, followed by 12- and 14-year-olds, each numbering 26, and those aged 16, numbering 25.

Child pornography cases rose by 109 to 676. There were 351 porn victims under 18 years old, an increase of 76 and the highest number since data began to be compiled in 2000.

There were 412 child porn cases in which people were either arrested or turned over to prosecutors, including 213 for Internet-related crimes.

The number of child prostitution cases came to 1,056, down 291. The number of prostitution victims fell 293 to 851.

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